254th Infantry Regiment- Page 3
Combat Infantryman and Combat Medic Badges
The following is the story of two significant battles the 254th Infantry was involved with during the period 20 January - 1 February
1945. They were to be known as the Battle of Hill 216 and the Battle of Jebsheim, France. For their part in these battles, the 2d
Battalion, 254th received a Presidential Unit Citation for Jebsheim and the regiment earned a Presidential Unit Citation and a French
Croix de Guerre with Palm for their battle successes.


HILL 216: At last, after three weeks of mastering the defensive arts, we were assigned an offensive mission.--We were to take Hill
216. Field Order 1, issued on 20 January 1945, indicated the plans of the Regimental Commander for the seizure of this well
defended knoll. The First Battalion was designated assault element and assigned a thousand yard front extending from a point south
of Mittelwihr, eastward from the easterly power line. The battalion, two companies in a line, was to push forward to the north bank
of the Weiss River and establish defensive positions from the junction of this stream and the power line eastward to the Fecht River
and thence northward to the highway bridge. An outpost line was to be pushed forward from the Weiss River to a distance of some
thousand yards south of the main disposition while the bridge was to be secured by not less than one platoon.  

During this action, the Second Battalion was to continue to hold its defensive position facing eastward along the Fecht River. The
Third Battalion was to stand by in regimental reserve, although Company L was assigned the mission of patrolling and outposting to
the front upon the attainment of the Weiss River line. Two days before the attack was to be made, the First and Third Battalions
were released from their defense positions and brought to rear areas west of Mittelwihr for training. Here we were briefed on the
task which awaited us. We found on the map that Hill 216 was located south-west of the Alsatian town of Bennwihr, about four
miles north of Colmar. We knew that there were strongly prepared positions on the flanks of the hill and a reinforced defensive arc
running generally parallel to the Bennwihr-Ingersheim Road.  

Although there was some tension as the time for the attack drew nearer, a great deal of this was dissipated as we became "armchair
strategists:. Around each map a group of us would gather and a mild discussion would begin; soon, however, fists would pound the
table as each of us realized that the rest of those present had no understanding of what really should be done. The endangering of the
flank in our planned zone of advance by the powerfully held German stronghold of chateau de Schoppenwihr became the major
argument. Those who believed the attack of the 7th Infantry (3rd Inf Div) in their zone would command the attention of the
defenders disputed with the more pessimistic of us. All preferred to forget that twice before the hill had been unsuccesfully attacked
by other units.  

During the early morning hours of 23 January, the First Battalion (Less C Company in reserve) marched from the assembly area
near Beblenheim to the line of departure. It was still snowing and a bitter north wind seemed to tear unhampered through combat
pants and layers of sweaters ending in field jackets. Our new shoe-pacs were warm but uncomfortable to walk in, even on the soft
snow, nevertheless we were thankful for them. As we moved along the narrow road to the line of departure we looked like a
column of hooded ghosts in our snow capes. Company B led the column and proceeded to the eastern half of the battalion front. A
Company followed to the western half. At fifteen minutes before "H" hour, 0700, the 3rd Division as well as the organizational and
attached artillery began firing a preparation. We lay in the snow and watched as the big shells flashed against the snow clad hill. As
we saw the destruction rained on whatever was out there waiting, we remembered what the 3rd Division doughs had told us. "An
Infantryman may be the hero to a lot of people, but when you're ready to shove off in the attack, the artilleryman is the hero's hero".
Minds and bodies became tense as we awaited the signal to move forward. We had seen some of war but always it had been we
who awaited the enemy in our defensive positions; now it was his turn to wait in a hole, ours to attack. For the Nth time we checked
the bolt on our rifle, or adjusted the weight of our mortar ammunition, or made sure our K-rations were properly tied to our
equipment.  
"OK, let's go!" Before we knew it we were moving forward, a lot of the tenseness had left us, and we had begun our first combat
attack. Silently and unseen we moved through the deep snow, our capes blending in perfectly with the world of white which
surrounded us. For a few moments after we heard the dull explosions and saw our comrades lying on the ground, we did not realize
what was happening. No shell scream, no mortar whistle accompanied the burst. Then our minds began to work once more and we
recognized the barrier the crafty Germans had erected--a field of the tiny, foot-shearing Schu-mines. The heavy snow fall of the
preceding days coupled with brisk winds had perfectly hidden the mines and the footprints of the soldiers who laid them. Together
the two companies began to cross the minefield , in the only way that a minefield can be crossed--slowly, grimly, probing each step
before moving, with a foot or a leg or a life the penalty for a misstep. The explosions of the mines alerted the waiting Germans and
mortar fire began to pour into the minefield. This was clearly directed from the top of the hill and came from weapons in the woods
south of the Weiss River. The concentration was extremely heavy and B Company began to receive large numbers of casualties
from this shelling as well as from the Schu-mines. As the light became better, machine guns opened up from their positions along the
road at the base of Hll 216 while snipers on the northern slope of the hill aimed their deadly fire on the men picking their way
through the mine=field.  

Finally, in order to avoid a direct frontal assault on the positions at the base of the hill, the company "gave way" to the east and
started working southward with its left flank about five hundred yards west of the river. Fire came in increasing intensity from the
Chateau de Schoppenwihr and from the woods along the Fecht River--small arms, machine guns, and 88's. Pinned down by this
curtain of fire the advance of the company after 0800 was tortuously slow. So heavy was the resistance and so high the casualties
that at 1000 it was decided to employ Company C on the left flank. A Company, on the battalion right flank, was making better
progress. Although many men fell from the Schu-mines, the mortar shells consistently dropped behind the advancing units. As the
companies neared the top of the hill, machine gun, machine pistol, and rifle fire became devastating in its accuracy. Courage in the
face of superior fire power coupled with heavy small arms, machine gun and mortar fire poured into the German positions on the
north slope of the hill forced the enemy to vacate this position. By 0900 A Company had reached the crest, the first platoon in the
lead, the second in echelon to the left rear and the third following shortly behind. When the units crossed the peak they found enemy
dug in on the south slope. Even more intense fire than they had received from the north slope met them here as they began again to
work their way through another thickly sown minefield. Direct fire from small arms and machine guns in the wooded area south of
the Weiss river added to the torrent of fire which the determined Germans threw in an effort to halt the attack. Casualties mounted
as men fell from the exploding shells, the accurate small arms, and the fiendish Schu-mines. Nevertheless, the company continued to
advance and by 1230 had reached the east-west road on the southern face of Hill 216. Between this position and the river there
was an open field, undoubtedly mined and swept by direct fire from the woods along the Weiss River. Considerably depleted by
casualties, the company found further advance to be impossible and the unit commenced digging in.  

Company C, in reserve in Mittelwihr, was alerted at 1000 and by noon, the line of departure used by the other companies earlier in
the morning was crossed. Sniper and machine gun fire from the Chateau and the woods below it were received almost immediately,
By the time Company C had worked down to B Company's former position, the latter unit had pushed forward. A group of riflemen
had inched toward the machine gun nests and silenced the guns and B Company was moving forward again. As they came to the
east-west road, the second platoon spread to the right to gain contact with A Company, while a small group from the first platoon,
following the edge of a vineyard pushed toward the Weiss River. Contact was made with A Company by B Company's second
platoon at 1430. The other platoon pulled to the west of the north-south road and using an abandoned enemy CP formed a
defensive line facing east. the leading element of C Company had not proceeded far along this road before it met B Company's
group returning from the river, still under small arms fire. C Company, therefore, built up a defensive line east of the road facing the
Fecht River. At about 1400 it became apparent that the now depleted First Battalion without assistance would be unable to reach
the Weiss river before dark. the Third Battalion was alerted and moved out at 1650. Only two rifle companies were available to that
unit for the operation. Company I remaining in regimental reserve. In addition, K was short one platoon which had been employed
since early morning on the First Battalion's left flank and was still pinned down by fire from the Chateau. Leaving the assembly area
near Beblenheim, I and K Company proceeded along the east side of the Bennwihr-Ingersheim road between the two power lines.
The advance of both units was slowed down considerably by a mine field encountered on the approach march. Probing their way
through this under continued small arms and machine gun fire, I Company proceeded, under intense fire from the south bank of the
Weiss River, to the junction of the eastern power line and the stream. Here, after extending eastward, the men dug in at about
1900.  


HILL 216 BATTLE (CONTINUED) 254th Infantry Regiment- Page 4
The Battles of Hill 216 and Jebsheim
254th Infantry Regimental Crest
For those of us with failing eyesight, a larger print version can be found by
clicking
HERE.
15 Oct 13
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